Sonepat multiple murder convict Dharampal Singh is off death row after almost 18 years. A Punjab and Haryana high court division bench on Tuesday commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.
The judgment of the division bench of justice SK Mittal and justice HS Sidhu comes almost two years after the President declined Dharampal’s mercy petition. In 1993, he had killed five members of the family of a woman who had got him into jail in 1991 in a rape case in which he was later acquitted.
A detailed order is awaited, but the convict’s lawyer, Navkiran Singh, has hailed it as “a great judgment” and “a great achievement for those who want capital punishment abolished”. “The President took almost 15 years to decide on Dharampal’s mercy petition. Also at the time of the Supreme Court judgment, he had not yet been acquitted of rape, and his later acquittal was not brought before the President. The sentence and the rejection of the mercy petition were based on his conviction in the rape and murder cases,” the lawyer told HT after the verdict.
Later, Dharampal was acquitted of rape but convicted of murder. The commuting of the sentence is based on a petition that Dharampal filed in April 2013, days after the President turned down his mercy petition. He had pleaded that the President had taken long to decide and other long-delayed execution matters were pending in the Supreme Court.
Dharampal, who is from Shahpur Turk village in Haryana’s Sonepat district, is in the Ambala central jail.
January 7, 1991: Dharampal gets 10-year imprisonment in a rape case
June 4, 1993: When out on parole, teams up with his brother, Nirmal Singh, to kill the rape victim’s father, mother, two brothers, and a sister; the victim and her husband survive; later, he is acquitted of rape but convicted of murder
May 5, 1997: Sonepat sessions court awards him
March 28, 2015: President Pranab Mukherjee turns down his mercy petition.
April 21, 2015: Punjab and Haryana high court commutes sentence to life imprisonment